Steve Sturgess

examining the latest development in electric delivery vans

Examining the Latest Development in Electric Delivery Vans

The global local delivery scene is examining the latest development in electric delivery vans. This area is changing fast and Diesel News’ US Correspondent takes a look at a few of the developments in the US and Europe which may eventually find their way to Australia.

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New Volvo VNX is Tough, Trendy and Suave

According to Diesel News US Correspondent the new Volvo VNX is tough, trendy and suave. In North America, Volvo has completely refreshed its range in the last year. The third tranche of the introductions is the new VNX model. Diesel’s US Correspondent, Steve Sturgess, was there for its unveiling. Read more

Testing Electric Trucks into the Ports 

Testing Electric Trucks into the Ports

 

In California, Siemens are testing electric trucks into the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Electrified overhead power cables provide the power to trucks delivering to the ports.

 

Testing Electric Trucks into the Ports 

 

The South Alameda Street demonstration is a one-mile ‘test track’, with the left lane coned off in both directions in Carson, California. A small construction-site mobile office sits approximately at the mid-point, under the Sepulveda Boulevard overpass. Here, another very short section of catenary allows for experimentation on or service of the installations on the trucks.

 

All three trucks can operate quite satisfactorily on electrical power supplied via the catenary power lines through the pantograph contact arms mounted above and behind the cabs. Both the catenary infrastructure and the on-board electronics and power controls to reduce the catenary voltage of 500–750 volts DC down to the 350 volts required to drive the trucks are owned and installed by the German Siemens.

 

Testing Electric Trucks into the Ports 

 

The Vehicles

 

There are three prime movers performing the testing in the catenary demonstration unveiled at the end of 2017. Two are Navistar ProStar ‘mules’ prepared by California-based TransPower.

These two trucks were purchased, then the engines and transmissions removed and the TransPower-developed electric powertrain installed. One of the ProStars is pure plug-in battery electric, the other has a CNG Ford 3.7-litre V6-powered generation set across the frame rails behind the cab that provides range extension by continually topping up the battery power.

 

The battery-only electric has a range of 64km, the range-extended truck offers the same mileage when running on batteries alone, but can operate for several hundred miles with the range extender in operation. The actual range varies with the CNG tank size: bigger tanks mean more kilometres.

 

The third prime mover is a Mack Pinnacle hybrid provided by Mack. While not yet commercially available, Mack has been developing a hybrid powertrain for heavy distribution trucks that operate on short hauls with traffic congestion. As hybrids, they have an electric traction motor to assist in accelerating the vehicle, which also functions as a generator in the regenerative braking mode to return electric power back to the on-board batteries. The 161hp peak, 94hp continuous (120–70kW) motor is sufficient to power the truck when the diesel engine is shut down, allowing for zero emissions when the truck is running under the catenary power line.

 

According to Mack, the prototype used in the demonstrations is a conventional Pinnacle DayCab model equipped with a proprietary and fully integrated plug-in hybrid electric driveline, offering significant fuel savings and emissions-reduction benefits even when the truck is operating outside of the eHighway.

 

Testing Electric Trucks into the Ports 

 

Visual Pollution

 

While the technology demonstration goes forward, there’s opportunity for public comment. It will be interesting to gauge opinion on the visual pollution additional wires and poles introduced at street level. South Alameda Street is one of the least attractive routes imaginable, and the catenary does nothing to improve that.

 

But it doesn’t appear to impact the enthusiasm among the funding partners.

“This project will help us evaluate the feasibility of a zero-emission cargo-movement system using overhead catenary wires,” said Wayne Nastri, Executive Officer of South Coast Air Quality Management District. “This demonstration could lead to the deployment of e-highway systems that will reduce pollution and benefit public health for residents living near the ports.”

 

 

 

 

The New Sprinter

From Mercedes-Benz the new Sprinter has been released, but it didn’t launch as just a van, it is planned to be more of a transportation solution. Part of the package will be an extensive telematics offering under the Mercedes PRO brand that will allow for highly automated dispatch, optimised routing, traffic information and built-in diagnostics that will issue service and repair notifications. Read more

Electric Trucks are Becoming a Reality

Electric Trucks are Becoming a Reality

Electric trucks are becoming a reality, in California, with electrified overhead power cables providing the power to trucks delivering to the ports. Diesel News’ US Correspondent, Steve Sturgess, reports.

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Preventative Maintenance is Vital

Latest in Engine Technology

In a tour of the Columbus Technical Centre, Diesel News’ US correspondent, Steve Sturgess saw Cummins present the latest in engine technology, saying that for many markets diesel engines will be the best solution for decades to come. The latest products are claimed to be the most commonly used power on American roads today. New versions of the X15 and lightweight X12 engines were introduced in early 2017 and are engineered for optimal performance and power, while offering class-leading fuel economy from advanced air handling and fuel system controls.

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Inside the Tesla Truck

As accurate as they proved to be, those sneak preview photos didn’t reveal inside the Tesla truck. The interior of the Tesla Semi, in fact, features a centrally located driver’s seat behind the enormous curved windshield. The side glass flows smoothly around the surprisingly thin A pillars, so the driver’s view forward is unparalleled.

 

Inside the Tesla Truck

 

The steering position, with a small, car-like wheel on the model at the walk-around intro, was flanked on either side by flat panel displays from the Model 3 that are customisable, as in the Tesla cars. In fact, this not only represents a major advance in driver controls, it is actually cheaper for Tesla to integrate the same flat-panel technology it uses in the cars instead of creating a regular dashboard.

 

On the walk-around day-cab truck, there was a small passenger seat against the back wall for a riding helper or driver instructor. For anyone who attended the launch of the Nikola, there are obvious similarities to the Nikola launched last year. But there are significant differences, too. The 6×4 walk-around truck featured a drive tandem, each conventionally air-sprung drive axle featuring a power pack from a Tesla Model 3 on the nose of the axle, with separate motors for each wheel.

 

The air-ride is conventional heavy duty, with regular looking frame rails. The Tesla guide said the battery pack resides beneath the cab, and a conventional fifth wheel allows for trailer coupling. The cab looks like a sleeper from the outside but that’s because the cab sides extend well back from the back of the cab.

 

Inside the Tesla Truck

 

The industry has not been slow to respond, with several having expressing their interest immediately – though the trucks are not expected to go into production until 2019. Truckload carrier J.B. Hunt was among the first fleets to publicly reveal it had reserved the truck – or several, in fact.

 

“Reserving Tesla trucks marks an important step in our efforts to implement industry-changing technology,” said John Roberts, President and CEO at J.B. Hunt. “We believe electric trucks will be most beneficial on local and dray routes, and we look forward to utilising this new, sustainable technology.”

 

Major US grocery chain Meijer has placed down US$5,000 ($6,560) to reserve four models – though reservations are reported to be $5,000 per truck, and mega retailer Walmart has revealed it is considering how the Tesla Semi will fit in its distribution plans.

 

Inside the Tesla Truck

 

“We have a long history of testing new technology, including alternative-fuel trucks, and we are excited to be among the first to pilot this new heavy-duty electric vehicle,” Wal-Mart spokesman Kory Lundberg said in an email. “We believe we can learn how this technology performs within our supply chain, as well as how it could help us meet some of our long-term sustainability goals, such as lowering emissions.”

 

Unusual for a car company, the design team appears to understand the needs of the commercial user of the Tesla product. If it delivers the operational savings promised, early customers like Hunt and Walmart will be delighted. Technicians too, because the electric drivetrain is so much less complicated than the emissions-saddled diesel powertrain. But drivers? They’ll hate it if they prefer ‘real’ trucks. But millennials – and that’s where the new drivers are to come from – will love them.

 

 

Tesla Semi Breaks Cover

In a cloud of hype, the long-promised Tesla semi breaks cover and Diesel News US Correspondent, Steve Sturgess, got to see and feel the truck first hand.

 

Tesla Semi Breaks Cover

 

Tesla unveiled its heavy duty prime mover, its ‘Semi’ at a reveal party attended by nearly 1,200 of the world’s press, Tesla officers, investors and employees, held in November in a hangar at Jet Centre in Hawthorne, California. It confirmed what the spy and tease photos had already suggested – a cab-forward, heavy-duty truck with exceptionally smooth lines promising dramatically improved fuel economy and vehicle performance.

 

CEO and Product Architect of Tesla, Elon Musk, stepped down from the cab of the much-heralded truck as it rolled in and went on to highlight its features before a sea of fans. But the message was clear and commercial, the Semi is a thoroughly practical, high performing and an economical product that can do to diesel power what Tesla’s Model S, Model X and Model 3 have done to petrol engine cars, hastening the demise of the internal combustion engine in commercial transportation.

 

The economic analysis that passed over the heads of much of the doting audience was compelling. Musk said that total cost of ownership would be US$1.25 ($1.60) per mile, comparing favourably to today’s diesel truck cost of US$1.51 ($1.98). He did not specify the trade cycle or the structure of the financing but did say that Tesla is aiming for zero breakdowns in a million miles of operation.

 

The announcement of the promised range – 500 miles (800km) – brought a rousing cheer from supporters. Significantly, Musk said the Semi could pick up an 80 per cent charge in just 30 minutes, which would add another 400 miles. Since a driver must take a meal break under hours-of-service rules in the US, that gives the truck a 900-mile daily range, providing a fast charger is available at the rest point.

 

Tesla Semi Breaks Cover

 

Despite the enthusiasm at the launch, the troubled reliability of Tesla’s Model S and the introduction issues of the Model 3, on which much of the powertrain of the Semi is based, has been a point of contention among critics. Against this, Musk recognised that reliability and durability were prime requirements for a commercial vehicle and promised million-mile reliability for the Semi when it is introduced in 2019.

 

In his presentation, Musk said that the range was enabled by exceptional aerodynamics, with the ‘Semi’ scoring a 0.36CD – better even than the Bugatti Chiron’s 0.38. He also noted the cab side extenders that actively fill the gap between prime mover and trailer also contribute to the overall low drag. Worth noting – the prime mover at launch looked like a sleeper because of these long side extenders.

 

Tesla Semi Breaks Cover

 

Access to the cab is to the rear of the driving position, with three steps tapering in toward the centre of the cab and a ‘suicide’ door. The floor is stepped, presumably to allow for the batteries beneath. There’s a step up to the driving position. The side glass forward of the door is hinged down its leading edge and opens for ventilation or to pass documents down to gate guards or enforcement officers. The door glass and opposite side-fixed glass do not open, eliminating the need for any lift mechanism that could fail in use. The door and cab sides have generous storage for driver necessities.

 

Interestingly, the door hinges are hidden and the door handle (from the Model 3) recessed, so the sides are super clean. Of the two models on display, one featured conventional mirrors, the other a visibility system, with cameras mounted high toward the back of cab. There was a single pantograph-arm windshield wiper. In another reference to the working character of the new introduction, Musk joked that the glass, “can withstand a nuclear explosion – or the customer gets a free refund,” while emphasising the point that the truck is optimised for minimum downtime, citing the out-of-service implications of a broken windshield.

 

 

Volvo Launch a Conventional

Volvo Launch a Conventional

In the US, Volvo launch a conventional model and for Diesel News’ US correspondent it was a chance to get some road test miles in a VNL 740 and the flagship VNL 860 – both with the new Volvo 13-litre turbocompound engine and the newly released, extra-tall final gear ratio of 2.47 to one. With the overdrive iShift automated transmission, this equates to extreme downspeeding, with the ability to cruise between 1,000 and 1,100rpm at 60 to 65mph (100 km/h), right on the fuel curve’s sweetest spot. Read more